For some reason, some of our Lion Mac Minis are deciding they don’t like living on our Active Directory (throwing up a ‘node cannot be found’ error when you try and bind them). Now, instead of tearing my hair out in despair in trying to get it work, I’ve decided to lose the AD altogether. Instead, I’ve created a local account for the Mac (called ‘Teacher’) and used a shortname and password that can log onto the shared drive for the school. As the Mac is still bound to the Mac Server for preferences etc., it still mounts the shared drive on login and has all of my finely crafted .plist files. But because it’s not having to wait for two different servers before it can login, login wait times are shorter.
I suspect there may be some shortcomings for this approach, but it seems to be working ok so far!
Having a few moments at the end of the day, I thought I would give Meraki a spin. I had much more success with enroling an iPad, particularly when compared to the frankly hopeless time I had with Lion’s Profile Manager, but then couldn’t get it to actually update settings remotely or anything. Then I remembered…of course, the LGfL firewall! I’ve submitted a request for the various ports, so we shall see how that goes.
Today I was at an Apple Education Event, organised by Toucan at the Apple European Briefing Centre above the Regent Street Apple Store. The venue is a bit like a private Apple Store, with all the various Apple products laid out on wooden benches in the refreshments area, and then a mid-sized meeting room with big screens and swivel chairs. Very swish!
The day was composed of an opening Apple Spiel (pretty much exactly the same as the other Apple Events I’ve been to, ie. how mobile technology is changing the face of education and how Apple stuff is supremely place to capitalise this) and then various speakers from schools who’ve used iPads. One stand-out feature from the opening ‘on-message’ part was the power of iTunes U. Schools, and even just individual teachers, can create private courses and manage all the content that students access. The iPad in a sense becomes a VLE (virtual learning environment), offering something far richer and more useful than the horror that is Fronter. I hope to look into this very soon, particularly as a way to get the Y5&6 teachers using their iPads.
The rest of the presentations seem like a bit of a blur now, but here are some of the highlights which stand out:
- Other methods can work, but it seems that a one-to-one deployment of iPads is the best and most productive way. I’d really like to see somewhere where this is happening and grill them over the details. It’s not something that is ruled out for our school, but the case has got to be strong.
- Cedars School of Excellence (home of Fraser Speirs and the first ever 1:1 iPad deployment in the world) got a mention, including a natty little video explaining what they’d done. All the kid’s iPads weren’t in cases though – apparently Apple asked for them to be removed in the video!
- Meraki got a mention as a way of managing loads of iPads. I really want to look into this, as it is apparently free! The mention was from a large international school, in the process of deploying 600 or so iPads, so it can’t be that bad.
- There were lots of different apps demonstrated, some with more success than others. It seems that the recommendation is to find the ‘core’ apps for your school and really use them effectively, rather than buying gazillions of apps. Interestingly, content creation apps really are the key ones (ie. iLife and iWork titles plus things like Comic Life or Book Creator).
- DIY charge and sync solutions also got a mention. It was nice to hear someone also balking at the thought of spending £1000 to sync and charge 16 iPads when a more homespun solution works pretty much as well.
- The newly announced VPP programme (Volume Purchase Programme) was talked about a few times too. I’m glad it’s here but probably won’t be using it until June 2013 when further iPads are deployed.
I guess I’ve come away feeling a little overwhelmed at the enormity of the task of getting these iPads to really work in a school, but also the huge potential they hold in transforming children’s learning. I hope that we get it right!
Now that the first full week of school has finished, here are some observations on how the iPad experiment is going.
- Reception children love the iPads! Each class only got 3 each, but already the teachers are asking when we’re getting some more. The GripCase cases also seem to be doing the job, protecting the iPads but also giving handy handles for the kids to grasp.
- The upper KS2 iPads seem to be getting some use, although only for some Internet research at the moment. But I’ve been told that teachers have planned in more iPad activities for next week, so I’m excited about that.
- iFiles + WebDAV = joy! One of the features of iFiles is that you can easily browse the files on a WebDAV share, which is what we’ve done with our shared ‘school’ drive. I think it might need a step-by-step guide for the teachers though.
- One of the Assistant Heads wanted to showcase some of the children’s maths learning in an assembly and asked me how it could be done using an iPad mirrored onto the hall’s big screen. I found the Educreations app, which lets you type, write and manipulate objects on a blank ‘whiteboard’ area. Apparently it went down a treat!
- We had to do an ICT audit today to make sure all the new equipment had been included in our inventory, and using an iPad to assist us was invaluable. We did use a paper copy to highlight off what was there, but used a copy of the spreadsheet in Numbers to search for serial numbers for items that had moved or we could t find. An enormous time-saver!
I’m sure there will be more, but I’m really pleased with how iPads are already being used across the school.